Farming used to seem like a chore, then the casual game market took hold and turned caring for crops into a resource management experience. Farm Mania is the latest of those games, following a similar path as Farm Frenzy 2 but keeping things fresh and interesting. Yes, it's yet another game with "mania" in the title, but the experience underneath is subtly different and twice as rewarding. And much cuter, I have to admit.
Young Anna is on a quest to save her grandfather's farm. She starts with little more than a small vegetable patch and some pumpkin seeds but quickly expands to different crops, livestock and more. Each of the game's dozens of stages is arranged in the same circular fashion with a well and feed crops at the top along with sheep and other livestock/crops at the bottom. Your grandfather handles bringing up well water and harvesting feed, but its Anna's job to distribute everything, gather the goods, and send it to town to rake in the dough.
As in most time management games, Farm Mania is about structuring your tasks in the most efficient manner. Seeds need to be sown, watered, hoed for weeds and eventually harvested. Animals need food and water and will give up more expensive goods to sell (eggs, wool, etc.). A smart queueing system lets you string together countless jobs in a row, and when an animal needs food or a plant needs watering, clear icons appear over the target, making quick visual confirmation an easy task.
Each level is built around fulfilling a number of tasks such as selling four watermelons or raising three ducks to adulthood. Between levels you'll have the opportunity to buy new crops/livestock or upgrade your tools. If working against the clock isn't your thing, Farm Mania features a Casual Mode where the timer is removed, letting you focus on quality instead of quick clicking.
Analysis: Plenty of gameplay variations and a surprisingly long experience, Farm Mania delivers where a lot of resource management games fall short. Don't let the derivative name turn you away, this title's got plenty to offer under its catchy music and cute visuals.
The action gets fairly frantic a handful of levels in, and depending on how many crops you plant you'll be hard-pressed to keep everything content and productive. Pacing yourself is key, and once you unlock more items in the store, you can grab a few items that will help your job in a big way. The mini-games every half a dozen levels or so will also serve up a nice breather.
Even though Farm Mania doesn't stretch the mold in any direction, it's still one of the most entertaining resource management games around. The tag-team approach to farming where Anna and her grandfather split tasks between them opens a surprising number of options and forces you to juggle not one but two characters at once. It's challenging, but very rewarding, and of course, bucketloads of fun.